Jun 14 2014

Playing Positive Trainer Stats

In a prior article I explained how specific tendencies of Trainers can be sought out using the Daily Racing Form online software (known as DRF Formulator).  When researching trainer statistics, I tend to separate them into “positive” trends (horse to bet on) and “negative” trends (horse to bet against).  I thought it would be interesting to go back and check out a few examples of positive trends that I used to my advantage in the past.

First, let me explain how DRF presents the results of a search on trainer statistics.  They show the number of Starts, how many finished 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, and the ROI (Return on Investment). The ROI is the return (per wager)  you would have made on a Flat $2 Win bet on all of the starters collectively.  So, anything over $2 is a profitable trend; while under $2 is a losing trend.  DRF also allows you to drill down to the specific horses included in the summary as well as the details for each race.

Here are the trends uncovered for three examples that will be explained below.

Ex. Starts Win Place Show ROI Comments
1. 16 3 0 3 $12 Two of three winners were 35-1.
2. 10 5 3 1 $2.75 That’s 80% in 1st or 2nd.
3. 20 7 4 3 $3.00 That’s 35% Win percentage.

Let’s review these examples in greater detail, including images of the Past Performances (PPs) and the results of what happened.  Don’t worry if you don’t understand all of the information in the PPs.  I’ll explain the relevant details, and we’ll get into the other details in the future.


Example 1.

Below are the PPs for a horse entered in the 5th race at Churchill Downs on May 3, 2013. The yellow highlight at the top, and Blue Note in the body were added by me using my iPad.

Peace Talk PPs

The note I wrote for the Trainer Statistics was “FTS Turf Rt: 16-303, $12“. In my shorthand, this means: First Time Starter (FTS) [Means never raced before], on Turf, at a Route (Rt) distance.  Of the three winners Trainer Victoria Oliver has had under these circumstances, two of them were 35-1 odds, resulting in a superb ROI of $12.  Also of interest, when drilling down to the two winners, I found they were owned by the same person (G Watts Humphrey Jr) that owns Peace Talk.

Although Peace Talk had a morning line of 8-1, she was not getting bet, and at Post Time her odds were 28-1.  I decided a Win-Place-Show bet was worth a shot, especially given that in addition to the three winners, Oliver had three Show horses as well.  That’s nearly 40% finishing in the money, with multiple at double-digit odds.  So, what happened?  Peace Talk got off to a very slow start, was in 11th place at the 1/2 way point, but closed strongly to finish 3rd, beaten by only 1/2 length for place, and 1 length for the win.  She paid $12.40 to Show.


 Example 2.

Below are the PPs for a horse entered in the 9th race at Saratoga on July 20, 2012. The Blue Notes in the body were added by me using my iPad.
So Many Ways PPs
The note I wrote for the Trainer Statistics was “2yr, Off Mdn Win, 10-531, $2.75“. In my shorthand, this means: 2-year olds only, Off (Following) a Maiden Win (The June 9 Race), with an ROI of $2.75.  Also, though not mentioned in my note, I had restricted the results to sprint races only.

While the ROI wasn’t as impressive as the previous example, I was impressed by the raw percentage of 80% of the time Trainer Tony Dutrow horses finished 1st or 2nd under these conditions. Below is a video replay of the race.



*** 2014 UPDATE OF EXAMPLE #2 ***

On Saturday, July 19, 2014 … Tony Dutrow ran a horse named Big Trouble in the 2-year old Sanford Stakes.  He was mostly ignored in the betting windows, due to a relatively low Beyer Speed Figure [46] in his debut win.  For those that remembered this article however, he fit the above example perfectly.  Tony Dutrow, with a 2-year old, following a maiden win, with a series of solid workouts.   Below is the video replay of the exciting finish of the 2014 Sanford Stakes.  Big Trouble is #4, and he goes off at 11-1 odds.

Since my original example was nearly two years old, here are the updated statistics for Tony Dutrow with 2-year olds, following a maiden win, in dirt sprints.  This is for the past 5 years.  The bottom line, pay close attention to Tony after he gets a 2-year old headed in the right direction.

Ex. Starts Win Place Show ROI Comments
2. 25 12 4 3 $3.46 That’s almost a 50% win rate. Outstanding!



Example 3.

Below are the PPs for a horse entered in the 6th race at Saratoga on August 15, 2012, a $35,000 Claiming Race, 8.5 furlongs on the Inner Turf.
Boots Ahead PPs
The note I wrote for the Trainer Statistics was “FT Tag, Turf Rt: 20-743, $3“. In my shorthand, this means: First Time (FT) a horse was entered in a Claiming Race (Tag), on turf, at Route distance. Notice there are several other blue marks (positive trend) on my PPs; including a couple of good work outs, exiting three Graded Stakes races, and in his last race he closed swiftly (22.75) despite going off at odds of 28-1.

So, in summary, there were multiple reasons to like Boots Ahead, and the Trainer Statistics helped to solidify that opinion. He won by 2+ lengths, paying $6.90 to win. He was also in fact claimed out of the race by another trainer.  Click here to read an article that explains “Claiming Races” in greater detail.

These three examples of positive trends show some variety in how to incorporate Trainer Statistics into your handicapping process.

The first example is taking a shot with a trend that doesn’t hit a high percentage of the time, but pays handsomely when it does come through.  With a little better break from the gate, I might have been laughing all the way to the bank that day.

The second example was a lower ROI, but a very high percentage play, that would give a horseplayer the confidence to bet this horse to Win-Place and/or key her in the 1st and 2nd positions for exotic wagers.

The third example shows how you can incorporate multiple “angles” into your handicapping, and the sum of the parts makes for a confident Win wager and/or key horse for Multi-race plays (e.g. Pick-3, Pick-4, etc.).

Neal Headshot2
By Neal Benoit

8 comments on “Playing Positive Trainer Stats

  1. The update with regard to Big Trouble is a race which will haunt me for years. It was my first visit to Saratoga. I liked Big Trouble and singled him on top of 8,9 with 5,8, 9 in a tri. My favorite tri play is the A-BBB play that you mentioned in your article where you single the A and play all the Bs underneath, but on this race, I decided to go big with a $4 tri so I left 5 out underneath to cut down the cost and shoot for the moon. My brother told me on my way to the window “why aren’t you playing the 5 in second place?” I told him I had it all figured out and not to worry. The rest is history. 5 placed and I missed out on my $2,500.

    • Ouch. That was a big payout too. You know, I’ve been guilty of doing the same thing at times. I call it shaving things so close that you cut yourself. I buddy of mine tells me, “You’re trying to be too cute!”

  2. neal, these are truly handicapping gold.just wish that i had the memory i once had to put the great info you provide, to use when its needed.you have an really great tone to your articles, they are spot on and written from a pov that only somebody with a vast knowledge could convey,yet reassuring to your audience..your love and respect fo the sport also is very clear in the pieces..thanks again, and hope all is well.

    barry hirsch on
  3. Just found you and love the way you explain things. It can be overwhelming to try and look at everything, but your examples make it seem worth the try. Thanks!

    Colette Waldrum on

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